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McDonnell: Companies could be delisted for failing to tackle climate change

The shadow chancellor has set out Labour’s plans to reform corporate governance.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell delivers a speech on the economy (Steve Parsons/PA)
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell delivers a speech on the economy (Steve Parsons/PA)

By George Ryan and Gavin Cordon, PA Political Staff

Labour has set out plans for companies that fail to tackle climate change to be delisted from the London Stock Exchange.

In a speech to business leaders in Westminster, shadow chancellor John McDonnell outlined proposals to move away from a shareholder economy towards a stakeholder model, as well as reforming corporate governance, accountability and regulation.

Delisting occurs when a stock is removed from a stock exchange and is usually prompted by a company failing to meet the requirements of the exchange.

Companies already have to meet rules set by the London Stock Exchange and Financial Conduct Authority and Labour is proposing amending the Corporate Governance Code to put in place a minimum standard to listing relating to “evidence of necessary action being taken to tackle climate change”.

They’ll be assessed about how successful they are either performing or how successful their plans will be John McDonnell

Speaking to the PA news agency, Mr McDonnell said: “It will be for, basically, those companies themselves to bring forward their proposals and plans – exactly what sort of proposals they’ll be, how effective they’ll be.

“And then during the listing process, they’ll be assessed about how successful they are either performing or how successful their plans will be.

“On that basis, just as with the rest of the code that there is, they’ll then be assessed and determined if they can be listed.”

Mr McDonnell also outlined plans for 10% of company shares to be transferred to workers over a decade at a rate of 1% a year.

He added: “What we’re trying to promote is a stakeholder economy. Again, it is something we have been arguing for for over three decades now.

“So the idea is, we’ll introduce legislation where companies hand over 1% of their shares for 10 years into an employee-ownership scheme.

“Again that fund will then retain those shares, have the dividends rewards and put them into that fund and the individual employees will draw upon those dividends, of course, but they’ll be collectively owned.

“There’ll be a limit of £500 of income that they can have. On average, it looks as though it will be about £180 a year they’ll get to. Above the £500, elements of that funding will then go towards, again, another fund that is about tackling climate change and funding green apprenticeships.”

It’s quite eclectic, we’ve been trying to look at what works elsewhere to develop that into our own programmes and in that way I think we’ll get the best of all worlds John McDonnell

During his speech, Mr McDonnell said Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders was considering a similar proposal but with 20% of shares.

He added: “We’ve arrived at 10% on the basis of consultation that we’ve had. In America, it’s a different debate going on overall. But it’s interesting that the idea which started with us is now spreading across the globe.

“And I think you’ll see there will be a demand, by particularly democratic and labour parties, to try and ensure we lay the foundations of a stakeholder economy in that way.

“I think it will be incredibly popular but effective, we know the greater levels of employee-ownership, the greater levels of productivity and longer-term decision making.

“We’ve been touring around, we’ve been looking at the German model, in terms of the national investment bank.

“We’ve been looking at some of the investments that have taken place in the States with regard to community wealth building for example.

“It’s quite eclectic, we’ve been trying to look at what works elsewhere to develop that into our own programmes and in that way I think we’ll get the best of all worlds.”

Labour has also published research on Tuesday which, it said, showed 48 of the 151 billionaires listed in the latest Sunday Times Rich List had donated more than £50 million to the Tories since 2005.

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Shadow chancellor John McDonnell delivers a speech on the economy at Church House in Westminster (Steve Parsons/PA)

The opposition party has calculated that by 2023/24, the Conservatives will have handed out “tax breaks and corporate giveaways” worth almost £100 billion since coming to power in 2010.

Labour said they included £86 billion in corporation tax cuts, £5.6 billion in reductions to inheritance tax and £5.5 billion in cuts to capital gains tax.

Mr McDonnell accused the Tories of siding with “the billionaires, the bankers and big business”.

He said: “No-one needs or deserves to have that much money, it is obscene. It is also obscene that these billionaires are buying access and tax breaks to Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party.

“We know whose side Boris Johnson is on – the billionaires, the bankers and big business.

“Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party are on the side of the people, offering real change for our country, putting wealth and power in the hands of the many, not the few.”

The Conservatives said the “top 1%” were paying a greater share of taxes than at any time under the last Labour government while tax receipts from business were at an all-time high.

Treasury minister Simon Clarke said: “Corbyn’s Labour have revealed their true colours. They want to stop people from passing on their family homes to their children after they die.

“Rather than helping people to succeed, they want to take away your family home in higher taxes. Their plans would not hit billionaires – they would overwhelmingly hurt hard-pressed families.”

PA

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